Interview with director Calebe Lopes

Graduating in Cinema by the Universidade Federal da Bahia, he is part of Olho de Vidro Produções as director, screenwriter and editor. He directed short films such as A Triste Figura (2018) and The University (2017), screened and awarded at dozens of film festivals in various countries.

Inspiração (2012)
The Longest Night of My Life (2016)
Remember It (2016)
The University (2017)
A Triste Figura (2018)
Pelano! (2019)

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I always liked movies, much on account of my parents. I always liked filming things, I always enjoyed writing stories and making movies accompanied me one way or another during my life. The more I knew cinema, the more I fell in love with it and the more I wanted to do it. That’s how it goes.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

No, I don’t think so. Cinema does not depend upon formulas or academic knowledge. You basically need to watch movies, read books, and practice. However, I think that the institutes of cinema can be useful for those who do not have the equipment, for those who want to meet people and to assemble a team, for those who want to find a true north in their studies.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

In Brazil, it has been difficult to continue. We are not facing a good political and economic moment, and art as a whole has suffered enough here. Keeping funds through the movie production is a huge challenge that few can bear. Taking the initial step is still possible, but we do not know if we’ll even have movie shows in a few years.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

I must have ideas according to what I have in my hands. If I know that I have a camera and a free room, I need to have an idea that is perfectly executable with a camera and that takes places in a room. All became very natural after a few failed attempts to script films that I couldn’t do the way I imagined. I also learned a lot watching movies of friends who had incredible ideas but left much to be desired in terms of execution due to budget and production issues.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

We had a minimal budget taken from our production company’s savings, Olho de Vidro Produções, a  small but passionate team. They started working without payment and with some ambitions that seemed high but fully executable, such as transforming a street cinema in an evangelical church. The structure of the film is divided in blocks and it has a very classic linear structure and it’s a little theatrical. The scenes come and go. The editing should give rhythm to this structure and construct smaller layers of climax. Fortunately, I’ve also got the talented editors (who are also filmmakers) Hilda Lopes Pontes and Klaus Hastenreiter.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

I think the hardest choices always come up when one is editing. Regarding A Triste Figura, a scene that I liked very much was cut and that would bring another meaning to what happens in the story. It was a horror scene that takes place during the day when Maria invites the figure to play football.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

If one wants to make movies, it is essential to be available to meet people. Participate in events, lectures, festivals, Facebook groups. I met the movie people in these places and these people led me to meet others and so on and so forth.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I don’t know what the audience wants because there are several types of audience, but I suppose when you watch a movie, you want to go through an aesthetic experience, an experience that moves you in some way, that instigates you to imagine and feel. Regarding horror films, I think people want to approach fear, which is the main feeling that permeates these narratives. In the case of filmmakers, I think it’s inevitable not to have an audience in mind. Films are made with different goals but I think they are always aimed at an audience.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Festivals allow us to watch movies in a beautiful collective cinema experience where we screen our films and meet people. Something very magical happens in these encounters: the movies become alive. They find public, chemistry, disagreement and fascination. There we also meet and listen to filmmakers, critics and moviegoers. There is no better place for those who make short films.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I do not believe in originality but in subversion. If one wants to be subversive, it is necessary to know the status quo. I think that in order to innovate, it is necessary to know the basis of cinema. Not only what Hollywood calls classic, but the real classics, the types of cinema that have been made for decades in different parts of the world by women and men who have done things that have been erased by history and time. Cinema is very much driven by trends and I think what is considered new is usually a reinterpretation of what is considered old. My films follow very specific codes and I try to reinterpret and give my own traits to structures that are well known but somehow unusual for the place where I make films. I don’t intend to create anything new and I assume that I make films, films that celebrate cinema. I carry the legacy of people like John Carpenter, Gabriela Amaral Almeida, Alfred Hitchcock, Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra, Kleber Mendonça Filho and many others. I do not copy them but I get drunk with their works. Their cinematic thoughts feed me and I throw up mine.